Call for Papers




Pain as Emotion; Emotion as Pain: Perspectives from Modern History




Public conference, 26 October 2012




The Birkbeck Pain Project and the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities.

Birkbeck, University of London




Organised by Visiting Fellow to the Birkbeck Pain Project, Rob Boddice, Ph.D (Languages of Emotion Cluster, Freie Universität, Berlin)




‘With the benefit of the past two centuries of scientific work and

thought, can one define pain?’ The question was asked by the

neuroscientist Edward R. Perl (Nature Reviews: Neuroscience, 8, 2007).

He concluded that ‘it seems reasonable to propose pain to be both a

specific sensation and an emotion’.




With that, the question of physiological pain opens up to those who

study the history of emotions, which in turn gives way to new

possibilities of understanding the historical and cultural contingencies

of physical pain. The statement also begs the question of the extent to

which emotion is in fact pain, if pain is in part emotion. Should the

histories of anger, fear, anxiety, grief and compassion be studied as

varieties of pain? In what ways have they been understood to have a

physiological component? Likewise in histories in which physical pain

plays a prominent part – the history of medicine notably – how far

should our understanding of pain be influenced by the study of

emotionologies that determine how the feeling of pain is expressed? How

have emotional contexts affected the experience of pain?




This one-day conference will approach these questions by focusing

broadly on the dynamics of the emotional, cultural and medical history

of pain in the modern period. The conference aims to foster discussion

on the importance of emotion as it relates and treatment with tramadol to physical pain and on

emotions themselves as varieties of pain, among experts working on the

history of science/medicine, the history of the body, and the history of

emotions, with perspectives from a variety of national contexts.

Possible paper topics include, but are not limited to:




* Pain and emotion in the laboratory


* Emotional pain and physiology


* Aesthetics/sensation


* Measuring pain, clinically and/or in the vernacular, in historical context


* Imagining pain in others (humans/animals): compassion, sympathy, empathy


* Emotions as pain: grief, anxiety, fear, anger, etc.


* Expressions of the feeling(s) of pain


* Influence of emotions on bodily pain


* Psychology and pain


* Pain and sentiment(ality)


* Turning off (emotional) pain: brutality, callousness, anaesthetics




Please send abstracts of up to 500 words and a short CV by email to the

Birkbeck Pain Project

([email protected]<mailto:[email protected]>) by May 1st, 2012.

Questions may be directed to the Pain Project and/or to Rob Boddice

([email protected]<mailto:[email protected]>).




The workshop will take place at Birkbeck, London University – further

information including registration details will be available here

( in May 2012. There is no fee to attend or

register for the Workshop.




More information regarding The Birkbeck Pain Project is available on the

Project website





Funded by the Wellcome Trust